1984-2004
  • CAROLINIAN CANADA

CONSERVATION
P
ROGRAMS
     
The "Big Picture"    
Land Use Planning & Conservation

Land use planning by municipalities is an important tool for communities to decide how their future will be shaped, what areas are developed and which remain in a natural state. Nowadays, land use plans should include natural heritage systems plans that plan systems of natural areas and connecting habitat corridors for each municipality or watershed. Carolinian Canada's "Big Picture" system of core natural areas and connections is a natural heritage system that stretches across the entire ecological region.

Official Plans and All That

An Official Plan for your municipality sets out the broad direction for land use in your municipality for 10-20 years. Official plans usually include policies about natural heritage features like wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitat and rare species. The Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act (see the Planning Act at E-Laws) guides the development of Official Plans and other planning documents. Zoning by-laws, site plan control, plans of subdivision, severances and other land use decisions by municipal councils are guided by Official Plan policies. Official plans are reviewed every five to ten years.

You can find information on your municipality's land use planning approach on their web site. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario maintains links to all Ontario municipalities. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing also publishes information on citizen's guides to land use planning and the Federation of Ontario Naturalists has an excellent stop urban sprawl web page.

Citizen participation in municipal land use planning provides excellent opportunities to advance natural heritage conservation. Many municipalities have Environmental Advisory Committees that assist in providing sound scientific advice on natural heritage conservation. Conservation authorities actively participate in the review of municipal planning documents.

Natural Heritage Planning

The Planning Act guides municipal planning across Ontario. The Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act includes natural heritage policies, water resource management policies and natural hazard policies that all support natural heritage protection and good environmental management. The natural heritage policies (2.3) are shown in the box on the right.

The natural heritage policies in the Provincial Policy Statement are supported by the Wetland Evaluation Manuals, Natural Heritage Reference Manual and the Significant Wildlife Habitat Technical Guide.

The best approach to natural heritage protection is one that views all wildlife and habitat as a system that should work together to protect and enhance ecological diversity in the region. The "natural heritage system" approach identifies a regional system of core natural areas and the linking habitat corridors. Potential areas for restoring and enhancing natural areas and corridors are also identified.

Carolinian Canada's Big Picture natural heritage analysis offers a comprehensive approach to natural heritage system planning.

Illustration of a Natural Heritage System
Natmap.jpg (51545 bytes)

2.3 Natural Heritage Policy

2.3.1 Natural heritage features and areas will be protected from incompatible development.

a. Development and site alteration will not be permitted in:

  • significant wetlands south and east of the Canadian Shield; and
  • significant portions of the habitat of endangered and threatened species.

b. Development and site alteration may be permitted in:

  • fish habitat;
  • significant wetlands in the Canadian Shield;
  • significant woodlands south and east of the Canadian Shield;
  • significant valleylands south and east of the Canadian Shield;
  • significant wildlife habitat; and
  • significant areas of natural and scientific interest

if it has been demonstrated that there will be no negative impacts on the natural features or the ecological functions for which the area is identified.

2.3.2 Development and site alteration may be permitted on adjacent lands to a) and b) if it has been demonstrated that there will be no negative impacts on the natural features or on the ecological functions for which the area is identified.

2.3.3 The diversity of natural features in an area, and the natural connections between them should be maintained, and improved where possible.

2.3.4 Nothing in policy 2.3 is intended to limit the ability of agricultural uses to continue.

Some key components of a natural heritage system are Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest and wetlands. Lists and maps of these areas and others are available from the Natural heritage Information Centre.

Life Science Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest

Click here for a List of Life Science Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest in the Carolinian zone

Earth Science Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest

List of Earth Science Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest in the Carolinian zone

Wetlands List of Wetlands in the Carolinian zone

The Niagara Escarpment Plan is a special environmental provincial land use plan for the Niagara Escarpment, which includes a portion of the Carolinian zone in Niagara, Hamilton, Halton and Peel.

Carolinian Canada also has made recommendations on how land use planning in Ontario could be improved. The report "Practical Options for the greening of Carolinian Canada" provides these suggestions. The Provincial Policy Statement is currently undergoing a five-year review which provides opportunities for improvement,

Watershed Planning

Watershed planning is an approach to land use and water resource planning that takes a comprehensive view of land use in an entire river basin or watershed. This approach recognizes that land use will affect water quality and aquatic and terrestrial habitat and should be planned to avoid loss of habitat and water quality. Conservation authorities in the Carolinian ecoregion advocate this approach as has the recent Walkerton Inquiry. Watershed and subwatershed plans usually also identify a natural heritage system.

The province also promotes watershed planning with three guidance documents published by the Ministries of the Environment and Natural Resources.

Smart Growth

Smart Growth is a term coined to describe a new approach to land use planning that emphasizes efficient use of land, supports transit, compact community design, and natural heritage protection. The Ontario government has appointed a number of advisory panels to examine a "smart growth" strategy for Ontario. Ontario government's Smart Growth web site and reports.

Federation of Ontario Naturalists has published reports on smarter approaches to community development on their stop urban sprawl web page.

You can read Carolinian Canada's comments on the Central Zone Panel report in PDF format. One key comment provided was that a natural heritage system for southern Ontario should be developed based on the "Big Picture" natural heritage analysis, watershed plans, environmentally significant areas and other natural area inventories.

Coastal Zone Program    
Land Use Planning    
Securing Conservation Land    
Private Land Stewardship    
Species at Risk Conservation Programs    
Conservation Strategy
 
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